Don’t fix me: what is true empathy (and not)

“No one said that my good, helpful ideas for other adults didn’t help until I was late middle age. My help was actually sometimes toxic. Those people were me. I had to protect myself from my passionate belief that I have good ideas for the lives of others. I didn’t know that help was the bright side of control. “~ Anne Lamott

I am a well-meaning sympathizer.

If you share your issues with me, I will make them my own soon. I want to listen enthusiastically, feel deeply, and help. I give you advice and solutions that you didn’t ask for, and you’ll be frustrated when you don’t do what I suggest.

I found this useful.

I thought he was when my partner told me that his joints were hurting I wanted I told him to teach him yoga poses to relieve pain.When my friend told me how much she hated her job, I thought she was her I wanted She taught her how to find a career that she is passionate about.When my colleague told me about his farewell, I said he I wanted I advise him to come back there.

I know it well now.

We don’t want advice (unless we ask for it)

Most people who call themselves “empathy” also suffer from this pain.

We think it’s our responsibility to fix the pain of others because it feels like it’s ours and it’s easy to be in the position of others.Painful sitting is uncomfortable for us, so we believe we need to provide a solution When For them. I want to save them. We believe that the advice is what they need.

After all, this is not true. I learned this lesson when my sister talked about a big discussion with my best friend.

When we sat down eating noodles for dinner, she talked about how hurt she was and how uncertain she was about whether their friendship would be restored. I made some suggestions: “Did you try to call her instead of a text message? You ask her to meet for coffee so you can speak it. Can? Maybe when you do, should you take it in turn to talk to each other and others listen uninterrupted? “

She was frustrated and looked at me.

“Becky, you don’t have to fix this for me. Don’t give me any advice on that. I just want you to hear.”

Indeed, this surprised me.She told me listen? Sit there and say … none?

“Yes, that’s exactly what I want,” she said. “Maybe you can tell me what you heard, so I know what you heard. But I don’t need a hint. Thank you.”

To be honest, this was a complete revelation. My sister is pretty straightforward, so just ask me (or someone else) what I want and what I need. But most of us are too polite or too scary to ask for what we really want.

When I think about it, I realize that when I share my inner world with someone, I don’t want a solution unless I explicitly ask for it.

What I really want is to be asked.

Is it enough to wait and listen?

We do not share any part of ourselves with others to receive tips and tricks. Google will cover us when it is what we want.

Personally, I want to support them, so I share them with others. That support is as easy as someone looking at me and saying “OK”. Make my pain exist between us and make it okay to be there. I don’t feel lonely.

Need to be seen, heard and understood— Matter— Universal.

Ironically, when we try to help others by saving them, we do not meet this need at all. In fact, what we’re saying is, “I don’t think you have the resources you need to find your own solution to this. This is what I know, so do this instead. Please give me.”

They say their pain is not okay. It needs to be fixed.

I’m also embarrassed to say that it’s often causing someone else’s problems about me. If they tell me what they are thinking, I can share my experience in similar situations (and how I treated it) or be emotional about what they said. May react to (so they will take care of me rather than the other way around).

Recently, my partner said he had a problem with our relationship.

“I want to tell you this, but it would be great if you could speak without reacting to it,” he said. “If you just listen without sharing your thoughts and give me space to be open with you about this. Then you can have a dialogue. Is that okay? “

Well, let me clarify. It’s been many years since my sister told me to stop giving advice and calling me “empathy.” I thought I would be very good at listening.After all, I’m better at not trying repair Man.But I still tend to react To people’s stories with my own thoughts and opinions, rather than showing what I’m actually listening to.

“But he knows I’m an emotional creature,” I told myself. “What on earth is he expecting ?!”

At some level, this is true.We sympathize that is Emotional creature.That’s our wiring method

But I decided not to use this as an excuse. If I wanted to experience the kind of love, intimacy, and connection that I really longed for, I needed to learn how to be there for people without inserting myself into people’s problems.

What is true empathy — and it’s not

From my work on Marshall Rosenberg and non-violent communication to Brené Brown’s work, I’ve learned about empathy.

First of all, empathy is ours NS. Not ours that is.

Yes, some of us find it more natural and empathetic and easier to build relationships with others. But true empathy is skill. It’s something we can learn and improve. Moreover, many of us who call ourselves “empathy” do not think we need to work on these skills, including myself. Believe me, we do. We all have a blind spot.

Let’s say a friend comes to us and says he’s having a hard time right now. They are in a pile of credit card debt and feel drowning. They worked extra hours and started side hustle to pay it off, but they were still stressed, overwhelmed and burned out.

Do you already feel the urge to provide advice? Yeah, me too.

Instead, pause and think about what your friends want. Sharing this with us is vulnerable to them, as they may feel embarrassed. You probably don’t even need our best debt clearing tips, as they are already actively working to solve the problem.

Here’s what true empathy looks like in this situation:

  • Consciously stay in the center, touch the ground, and be with friends
  • Pay attention to what they are saying and remind yourself what it is they, Not about We
  • Maintain eye contact, nod, provide non-verbal clues to let them know what we’re listening to (“Hmm”)
  • Reflecting what they said to us (“I hear you’re really stressed about this and worried about paying rent next month”)
  • Using this magical question: “Is there anything more you want to say about it?”
  • It’s okay to ask a question and ask “no” before giving any advice (“I have an idea that might help. Want to hear?”)
  • Ask before jumping into our thoughts (“I want to share my view of this with you. Can you hear it?”)

And this is it Do not looks like:

  • Provide judgment, analysis, or opinion on what they can or should do differently (“You should read this wonderful personal finance book”).
  • Reject their emotions and thereby invalidate them (“It’s okay” or “Yes, but at least you have enough money to get through. Some people don’t even have it.” Hmm.”)
  • Bring them up by sharing what seems to be a bad personal experience (“I know what you mean, I had twice that debt a few years ago. … “))
  • I’m trying to explain and identify why we think it’s happening (“Your parents never taught you how to manage your money.”)
  • Sympathize with them (“Oh, you’re bad, how confused you are”)
  • Educate them about what we have learned and how this can be applied to their situation (“I started by saving 20% ​​of my salary, it may work for you” May. “))
  • Secretly “coaching” or cross-examination —especially If we are qualified coaches (“How do you do it your way here? How do you borrow and feel somehow safe?”)

Looking at these two lists makes it clear what you want to receive from others, depending on your debt situation. The first list feels much more intimate, positive and nourishing. Nevertheless, I find myself always doing what’s still on the second list.

Fortunately, I do a lot of practice to develop my empathy skills.

I practice every day with my partner, my family, and my friends. Get it with an elderly lady sitting next to you on the bus, a friendly barista at a local coffee shop, and a cashier at your local supermarket. I don’t always do it perfectly, and it’s ok.

I’m just trying to remember that people don’t need me to fix them. They are not broken.

All they need is to present with them.NS Get used to With them — to hear — without having to NS everything. For us to dance together in pain. And maybe that’s enough.

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